Tamron 18-270mm Lens

It’s been about 40 years since I bought a non-Nikon lens so why did I buy a Tamron super zoom?

$365 at Henry’s, that’s why! It’s on a special sale price right now.tamron.jpb_g

Sure you can buy the Nikon 18-300mm (or the less expensive 18-200) for $1,000 but do you really want to?

Remember there’s also the 18-105 or 18-140 Nikon kit lenses if you want so more range than what’s available from the 18-55mm but why the Tamron?


Here’s what’s great about the Tamron 18-270…$365 and it works plus it’s very light.

A super zoom works perfectly well for what I want to use it for which is the World Gay Pride Day parade coming up at the end of the month and the Toronto Zombie Walk in October. Hundreds of thousands of people (estimates go as high as a million plus) will line the Gay Pride parade route (which closes downtown Toronto to vehicular traffic). This means for photography you’ve got to show up about two hours early to get a place along the roadside and once the parade is over the crowd walks into the gay area of Toronto so you’re going to be carrying your equipment around for five or six hours on what is often a very very hot day. You don’t want to be carrying around a ton of equipment.

Because I’m likely to be shooting very fast, the Olympus cameras that I own aren’t ideal but the Nikons are. You can shoot all day long as much and as fast as you want with the Nikons. The Olympus cameras are way better for shooting vacation shots when you’re carrying your equipment wherever you go but they aren’t as robust as the Nikons.untitled-2

There are lots of super zooms for sale these days. Sigma has a couple as does Nikon so why the Tamron? Well you know the answer when it comes to price and for outdoor special events it’s perfect.

But it’s not good at all for shooting indoors so I wouldn’t want to shoot a wedding with it unless I used the Tamron for the outdoor shots and my 35/50/85 f/1.8 combination along with my 12-24 f/4 and 17-55mm f/2.8 (which is one heavy sucker and not a lot of fun to carry for hours at a time) for the indoor stuff. Even if you paired the Tamron with a flash, it’s still not an ideal indoor setup.

The Tamron does have some macro capabilities but I already own the amazing Nikon 105 macro which you can pry from my cold, dead hands so macro isn’t an issue for me. Nevertheless the shot of the flowers in a hanging basket in shade turned out pretty well.

One thing I really like about the Tamron aside from price is the stabilization system. I’ve never found the Nikon stabilizer to be particularly wonderful but the Tamron worked well enough to get sharp shots of the cat at less than a 1/30th of a second (and no I’m not posting bad cat shots). The second thing that really delighted me was Lightroom 5 already has a corrective lens profile built-in for the Tamron 18-270.. It’s really impressive to watch Lightroom compensate for the distortion inherent in this super zoom.

So if you want a do-it-all lens be advised there is no such thing but for outdoor special event shooting any 18-200-plus super zoom is going to be a joy (with more joy shooting with the lighter lenses over longer times) but really folks $365. Insanely cheap and wonderfully useful (if you know what you’re doing).





Is Lightroom For You?

I’m teaching several groups the ins and outs of Lightroom and it got me thinking about whether or not Lightroom (LR) is for everyone.

At $150 or so it’s a bargain when you learn what it can do and especially when you compare the cost to Photoshop. But do you need a program that’s this complex?

Like everything else in photography the answer is it depends.adobe-lightroom-5-720x360

LR 5 (the current version) is not just a RAW photo editor. It can edit JPGs (the format where the camera does all the work) but it can also handle PSD (Adobe) or TIFF formats. But that’s not all. LR5 is also a very very robust and helpful database manager as well.

So if you’re a wedding photographer or you shoot editorial or stock photography and you need to keep track of tens of thousands of images you’ll love LR.

If you’re an advanced amateur photographer and you’re regularly shooting thousands of images per year you’ll love LR.

If you want to take your RAW vacation images and make them sing, then you’ll want to consider LR especially if you want to create books, slideshows or web galleries.

Having said all that, all RAW photo editors can produce excellent results. Simple editors including IPhoto (or Aperture) and Photoshop Elements are easy to use and produce outstanding images.

It’s your call but remember the best photo editor is the one you find the easiest to use. I’ve used them all including Capture NX2 (for Nikon users which I love as it uses NIK’s U-technology) and I keep coming back to LR5 for all it does.

MASP And What It Means

I’m on a massive email reflector (think it’s got 16K members) for photographers participating in Jasmine Star’s ReStart program.images

Participants range from shooting pros to absolute newcomers. One of the most recent discussions came from a newcomer who asked what mode most people used when shooting weddings. Almost all of the discussion was about modes of shooting other than AUTOMATIC which is usually shown as a green square on the MODE dial and no professional would ever shoot on automatic. (Many do but nobody would admit to it online LOL.)

The basic nature of the question tells you that the writer was really, really new but we all had to start somewhere so lots of folks waded in with their opinions. Most of the commentary was pretty good but I think most writers missed  a couple of important points.

So let’s look at MASP which stands for MANUAL, APERTURE, SHUTTER and PROGRAM modes. (Canon cameras show TV and AV for time value and aperture value. it’s a Japanese thing.)

First surprise is M, A, S and P all can yield an identical image when it comes to exposure. It all depends on how you want to get from here to there.

For example most wedding photographers (and a lot of pros shooting other things than just weddings) shoot in A (Av) mode as it allows the photographer to set the size of the lens aperture (and thus control the amount of depth of field which is the amount of the image that is in focus). You’ve seen tons of shots taken in aperture mode. The typical shot is one where the bride or bride and groom are in sharp focus and the background is not. This differentiation between what’s in focus and what isn’t is what makes the bridal couple seem to pop out of the photo background.

To get the correct exposure the camera tries to find a shutter speed that based on the aperture set by the photographer will result in a properly exposed image. Works pretty well most of the time.

When it comes to shutter priority mode, this is the mode that is favoured by sports photographers. In S mode the photographer determines what shutter speed to use. For example action sports photographers will want a high shutter speed to stop or freeze the action. But if the photographer is shooting a chess game, they might wish to use a low shutter speed to allow the camera to automatically adjust the aperture to keep everything in the image in focus. If you’re shooting your kids, you might want to be shooting in S mode.

Back in the old days, there were a bunch of New York photographers known as the f/22 group. They only shot at f/22 using box cameras with film. Shooting at f/22 even in daylight with slow film meant every shot had to be taken with the camera on a tripod (to prevent camera shake showing up and blurring the image) and long time exposures were the norm. As you can image the f/22 group didn’t shoot sports but mainly architecture as the buildings didn’t move during the 20 or 30 seconds needed for a time exposure.

But what about P (program) mode? Isn’t is just like automatic?

Well, yes and no. In P mode the camera does set both the aperture and the shutter speed in an attempt to find settings that will yield a properly exposed image.  In P mode unlike automatic, the flash will not fire automatically and you have to tell the camera whether or not to add the flash to the shot. One advantage of P mode is you can vary the aperture/shutter speed combinations as there is no one correct exposure when it comes to setting you camera controls.Lens_aperture_side

Let’s pretend the camera in P mode has set the aperture to f/8 and the shutter speed to 1/125 of a second. That is the equivalent to f/5.6 and 1/250 of a second. You’d also get the same exposure if your set the controls to f/4 at 1/500 of a second or f/2.8 at 1/1000. Notice I said you’d get the same exposure. In other words the brightness of the images would be the same but the depth of field would change in every image and so would your ability to stop action or allow it to blur.

Some photographers only shoot in manual mode. Why? Because they can individually control the aperture of the lens and the shutter speed of the camera.

They still have to set the controls to the right settings to get a properly exposed image and they don’t allow the camera to make any adjustments whatsoever when in manual mode. Some even use external hand-held light meters for precise setting control.

Why not always shoot in one of the automatic modes and let the camera help out?

For most shooting, this isn’t a bad idea. Letting the camera automatically set either the shutter speed (in aperture mode) or the aperture (in shutter speed mode) or both (in program mode) can be very helpful and speed up getting the right exposure for the scene you’re shooting but the automatic modes aren’t necessarily foolproof. (BTW Joe Buissink, the wedding photographer to the stars shoots almost exclusively in P mode!)

For example, if you’re in any of the automatic modes and your bridge and groom are standing in front of a large window your camera, on an automatic mode, is likely going to expose for the bright light coming through the window thus badly underexposing your couple. This is not a good thing and the exposure is likely to be so off so much that even Lightroom or Photoshop can’t save the shot.

In any of the auto modes you could add flash and that would be a good idea especially if you were bouncing the flash off a back or side wall or off the ceiling. Joe does this a lot.nikon-d90-exp-comp

But there’s another solution.

In the photo to the right there’s a circle drawn around the exposure compensation button.

The exposure compensation button overrides the automatic setting the camera is producing and allows you to modify the setting.

In other words you can make the image brighter (which would help with our backlit wedding couple) or darker (which you might want to do if you’re shooting a sunset) and thus save the shot.

One issue with exposure compensation is you must remember to turn it off after you’ve used it as it will continue to apply the compensation to all future shots.

This is one of the reasons some photographers only shoot in manual. The exposure compensation button doesn’t work in manual mode. Manual is manual and what you set is what you get and the camera can’t do anything to your setting. So for very tricky lighting situations where the lighting maybe varying a great deal (I’m thinking of a rock and roll stage show for example.) manual may well be the best mode. Lots of photographers who use flash on and off camera shoot in manual mode for that same level of total control.00OrKB-42405584

Back in the days when I was a young man shooting for a newspaper, there weren’t any automatic professional cameras. The little point and shoots like the Kodak Brownie had fixed aperture and shutter speed settings and that’s why every box of film had an exposure guide printed on the side. Worked pretty good and was a lot simpler.

PS and LR $9.99/Month

Yes it’s true.

You too can have continuously updated Photoshop (which used to sell at $800+) and Lightroom (sells at $130 from Amazon) for $9.99 per month from Adobe.5

The deal comes after tons of criticism was heaped on Adobe when they originally offered their “Creative Cloud” method of selling their popular software by online subscription only. The problem was the original deal cost $19.99 for one application or $49.99 for all Adobe products per month!

At $10/month for LR and PS I would suggest that most professional photographers will jump at this price point.

Going Full Frame?

The morning newspapers contained a very expensive 2 ft. by 3 ft. ad promoting full-frame Nikon cameras.

So will going full frame make you a better photographer?

Of course not but it will make you a poorer one 🙂

Let’s put it this way: If I had an extra $12,000 I’d go full frame within the hour.

I’d buy a D800 (at $3000 a body) or at least a D600 ($2500 per body) plus a 12-24mm, 24-70mm and a 70-200mm (all are fast f/2.8 lenses and run roughly $2K each). Plus I’d buy a 35mm f/1.4 (at around $1500). nikon-d90-1

But I don’t have that kind of cash so my D90 (available on the used market at around $300) and my D300 ($800 used) DX format (full frame is called FX format) will have to do. (And BTW they both take really excellent images.)

So why would anyone want to go full frame? These cameras are much heavier and expensive and cumbersome when it comes to handling the huge files they can produce (A D-800 outputs a 36-megapixel file for every image. Most other DSLRs are really happy to cough up a 16 meg file. With a 36-meg file you could make a flawless print the size of highway sign.)

Well….if you’re a wedding photographer full-frame with a series of lenses that open up to the same f-stop help manage the workflow and the large images they are capable of producing images just pop and sizzle.

Full frame also uses FX lenses that produce views that us older film photographers remember fondly. In other words a 35mm lens on a full frame camera produces a view which closely matches how we see. The view is a little wider that what used to the standard 50mm lens produces. On a DX camera a 35mm lens produces a cropped image that more closely looks like the FX 50mm image.

If you’re shooting full frame it says to your clients you’re a pro. And as a pro you’re going to have to stop shooting weddings for $1200 and enter into the big leagues just to pay for the equipment.


The Best Backup

Here’s a link to an an excellent article about which portable hard drive to buy which appeared in PCWorld.

This comes thanks to one of my Amateur Radio friends who lives in South America.western_digital_my_book_thunderbolt_duo_4tb_1190910_g1

Watch for sales over the Christmas holidays and during New Year’s specials of hard drives with older technology.

If you’re using hard drives to backup your images (and you should) speed isn’t a big issue. A stand 2.0 USB one-terabyte hard drive will likely sell for anywhere between $60 to $99 on sale.

Last year I bought two 1.5-terabyte drives for $99 each at Future Shop. So far this year I’ve used half a terabyte so I’m ahead of the game 🙂

BTW if you are doing video editing or lots of photo editing with multiple editing programs running at the simultaneously then you’ll want at least one firewire, USB 3 or Thunderbolt drive (shockingly fast) and if there’s a choice in performance buy the faster drive. It will cost more but a faster drive saves time if you’re using it as a scratch pad in your digital darkroom.

White Balance

Digital cameras come with a setting for something called white balance. White balance is the process of removing unrealistic colour casts. This explanation comes from an excellent tutorial about white balance posted on a site called Cambridge in Colour . r

For most of us, auto white balance works just fine. 300px-ColorChecker100423

When it comes to shooting in JPG format, the white balance you shoot is the white balance you get. So if you shoot in AWB , you get AWB. If you shoot in the cloudy white balance setting, you get an image that appears somewhat warmer than in AWB. Depending on your camera there are several preset white balance settings.

Here’s an article that explains the different settings.

Under some shooting situations your camera will record more accurate colours when you’ve set the camera to a preset as compared to AWB.

When it comes to shooting raw images, white balance takes on a whole new significance.

Raw images can have their white balance changed in software after the image has been shot. This is an enormously powerful tool to create or correct the colours in your image. 17-01

Most, if not all, raw editing software will allow you to create a custom white balance setting specific for the individual image. I use this control often when I’m editing images that have strange colour casts caused by artificial lighting. Many times images shot in meetings or parties can benefit from a custom white balance setting that creates more true colours.

Here’s another article on white balance by Ken Rockwell who is a professional photographer and an online photo blogger and  who is always  posting plain-language instruction about shooting digital photography.

Remember white balance can help produce stunning images with colours that seem true to the viewer. When shooting JPGs on AWB most cameras are going to get the colours right the first time.

However, in difficult lighting situations, professional photographers use white balance presets or custom white balance when shooting raw and then create the colours they wish in advanced photo-editing software like PhotoShop or Lightroom.